M’CHIGEENG – The excited voices of more than 1,100 youth from 21 schools from across the region rang out across the M’Chigeeng Powwow grounds as the 10th annual Fall Harvest got underway earlier this fall. The students were joined by 58 teachers and more than 75 community members and other visitors.
Booths and tables were set up across the grounds with activities ranging from various traditional foods such as berries, squash, apples, beans, corn (including corn soup), bannock, fish and a host of other healthy alternatives, craft activities such as bark and rock painting, carving, jewellery and weaving rushes and other natural materials into matts and dolls, as well as activities such as drumming and games. The volume and variety of activities and accessibility is unparalleled by any other event—and at the same time the interaction of youth from different cultures is also unmatched. It was common to see Indigenous youth explaining and demonstrating things for their non-Indigenous colleagues.
Last year the prognosis for the popular Fall Harvest event inaugurated by Kenjgewin Teg (KT) seemed poor, as the educational institute was no longer able to host the event on its own. Enter the United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising (UCCMM) and the Maamwi Naadamadaa (Let Us Work Together) committee.
Kenjgewin Teg Operations Manager Brenda Francis explained that the Fall Harvest is no longer a Kenjgewin Teg event, rather that the UCCMM Maamwi Naadamadaa committee is now the official host, although KT remains involved in the event through the committee. The eight partner organizations include the UCCMM Tribal Council, Gwekwaadwin Miikan (land-based treatment centre for youth), Noojmowin Teg Health Centre, Mnaamodzawin Health Services, Kenjgewin Teg, the UCCM Tribal Police Service and the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation.
The purpose of Maamwi Naadamadaa, explained Ms. Francis, is to create a structure that connects senior managers, executive directors, CEOs, band managers of UCCMM affiliate agencies and communities to create a space where collaborative culturally rich program development is the measure of success. “Specifically, the mandate of Maamwi Naadamadaa is to work together on community issues,” she said. “We work collaboratively on initiatives and events that offer learning opportunities and awareness of practices and traditional knowledge of how we did things.”
Under the new structure for hosting the Fall Harvest each of the organizations involved committed to setting up a number of booths for the event and then the organizations cost-share putting on the event.
“It’s amazing how all the employees step up,” said Ms. Francis. “They all ask ‘how can we help.’ Thanks to their efforts, the Fall Harvest day was successful.”